France head coach Fabien Galthie made 12 changes to the team who beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup curtain raiser as Anthony Jelonch is making a long-awaited comeback to face Uruguay in Lille on Thursday.
Les Bleus, who are expected to finish top of Pool A after prevailing 27-13 against the All Blacks last Friday, welcome the return of No 8 Jelonch for his first cap since he sustained a serious knee injury in February in the Six Nations.
In a total revamp of the back row, Jelonch will start alongside Paul Boudehent and Sekou Macalou while Maxime Lucu takes over from Antoine Dupont at scrum half and Antoine Hastoy replaces Matthieu Jalibert at fly half.
Melvyn Jaminet, who scored France’s last try against three-time champions New Zealand, starts at full back and electric young winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey has an opportunity to shine on the right wing.
From the team who started at the Stade de France, only lock Cameron Woki, centre Yoram Moefana and winger Gabin Villiere will be on the Pierre Mauroy stadium field at kick-off.
The whole front row is changed with hooker Paul Bourgarit starting with props Jean-Baptiste Gros and Dorian Aldegheri.
“We’re trying to have everyone involved,” assistant coach William Servat said. “So when the big matches arrive, all our players will be at their peak.”
Lock Bastien Chalureau, who was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence in 2020 after being found guilty of “acts of violence committed because of the victim’s race or ethnicity”, will be on the bench. He has appealed the decision and has denied making any racist comments.
France are second in Pool A behind Italy, who claimed a bonus-point win against Namibia, whom Les Bleus will face on 21 September in Marseille before taking on the Azzurri in Lyon on Oct. 6.
France team: 15. Melvyn Jaminet,;14. Louis Bielle. Biarrey, 13. Arthur Vincent, 12. Yoram Moefana, 11. Gabin Villiere; 10. Antoine Hastoy, 9. Maxime Lucu; 1. Jean. Baptiste Gros, 2. Pierre Bourgarit, 3. Dorian Aldegheri, 4. Cameron Woki, 5. Romain Taofifenua, 6. Paul Boudehent, 7. Sekou Macalou, 8. Anthony Jelonch (captain).
Replacements: 16. Peato Mauvaka 17. Reda Wardi, 18. Sipili Falatea, 19. Bastien Chalureau, 20. Thibaud Flament, 21. Francois Cros, 22. Baptiste Couilloud, 23. Thomas Ramos